Published Monday 19 May 2014 at 14:34
Blackburn with Darwen Council has become the first authority in the country to use photo messaging app Snapchat in a bid to increase voter turnout in this month’s elections.
The smartphone application will be used to send messages, reminding people to vote, in the run up to the European and local elections on Thursday, May 22.
The project is part of a social media initiative, which will also involve encouraging people to post “vote nomination” videos of themselves on Facebook, as soon as they have voted on polling day, to encourage friends and relatives to do the same.
Snapchat allows people to send and receive picture messages, which last for up to 10 seconds before being automatically deleted.
It has become one of the world’s most successful apps, even more popular than Facebook for sharing photographs amongst younger people, and was credited with the boom in the trend of taking “selfie” photographs.
A local awareness campaign is encouraging the borough’s smartphone users to follow the council’s Snapchat account – which has the username bwd-council and the display name Blackburn with Darwen Council.
In return, they will receive Snapchat messages about events and offers at venues such as King George’s Hall, Darwen Library Theatre and the borough’s parks and leisure centres.
But in the days before May 22 – and on election day itself – they will also receive Snapchat messages encouraging them to visit their local polling station.
Polling stations open between 7.00am and 10.00pm on election day and European elections will take place across all areas of Blackburn with Darwen.
There are local borough council elections in Blackburn with Darwen for the election of councillors in 21 of the 23 borough wards: Audley, Bastwell, Beardwood with Lammack, Corporation Park, East Rural, Ewood, Fernhurst, Higher Croft, Little Harwood, Livesey with Pleasington, Marsh House, Meadowhead, Mill Hill, Queen’s Park, Roe Lee, Shadsworth with Whitebirk, Shear Brow, Sudell, Sunnyhurst, Wensley Fold and Whitehall.
Chief executive and returning officer Harry Catherall said: “We are always exploring new ways of encouraging people to vote and social media is something which should be embraced as part of that process.
“Snapchat is an ideal way to communicate with people without them feeling like they are being bombarded with junk mail or spam – after 10 seconds it is gone.
“But we are hoping that it will act as a little reminder to them that it is polling day and that we want them to take part in the electoral process.
“We are hoping that, because they only last a short while, the Snapchat messages help create a sense of urgency and a call to vote before it is too late.”
The “vote nomination” initiative follows on from the video nomination craze which swept Facebook earlier this year and which users turned from a negative drinking game into a way to encourage friends to donate money to charity and do good deeds in society.
Voters are being encouraged to post a short video after voting and nominate two friends to go and vote before posting a video of their own.
Mr Catherall said: “Although no photographs or videos can be taken in the polling stations themselves, people could take one outside next to the polling station sign or with their polling card before they go in.
“Our social media initiative is an attempt to make the elections more current and relevant to people as they go about their daily lives.
“Many people carry smartphones with them all day now, so they are a great way to communicate with residents and the electorate.”